Tuesday, November 30, 2010

25: Time Warp

Minutes turn into hours. Hours turn into days. Days turn into weeks.

Well of course they do.

But there is a strange phenomenon happening over here in The Little White Kitchen. I aim to accomplish a task, a simple task mind you, and hours later find that I'm only halfway through it.

Take yesterday for example: I had a very short list of items to attend to... dishes, laundry, warming leftover soup to feed three hungry munchkins.

Why, I wonder, did it take me from noon until 6pm to complete these duties?

The dishes were not sky high, there were only two loads of laundry that needed to get done and the soup had already been prepared earlier that morning. I may be out in left-field, correct me if I'm wrong, but that does not sound like a six hour project to me.

Did I fly to the moon and back without knowing it? Perhaps I snoozed under my cozy blankets for four hours and let the children mind themselves. Or possibly I was so invested in my trusty old computer blogging away that I was completely sidetracked from my obligations?

Hmmmm. None of those things happened. Although there were times when my hands were elbow deep in the sink that I wished I was flying to the moon.

Example number two: Someone emails me. It is regarding something timely but not super urgent. I think to myself, "Ok, you've read the email and you know it's important, so next time you get a chance to sit down be sure to type out a quick response. Get it taken care of so you don't have to worry about it tomorrow. Better yet, do it now." Ten days later I type a response.

My point is this... I'm feeling slightly confused as to how all this happens.

It has been confirmed that there are 24 hours in a day. I am beginning not to believe it. With one quarter of the day at her disposal, an individual such as myself should be able to accomplish more than a sink full of dishes, two loads of laundry and the reheating of some leftover soup.

I cannot explain it. I shall not try.

Two words: Time Warp.

All this to say, I am posting last week's meal plan here. This was the meal plan leading up to Thanksgiving, which by my watch was a good four days ago. Due to the fact that I am counting down the week's until my hubby graduates from school, each of these numbers is deeply significant for me. I choose not to skip a single one. And so it goes...

Week 25 Meal Plan
Monday - Stellar Tuna Casserole
Tuesday - Mama's Beef Stew
Wednesday - Creamy Lentil Soup
Thursday - Deep South Sweet Potato Casserole, Crisp Green Beans with Toasted Almonds, Old School Gluten-Free Stuffing, Late Fall Apple Crisp, Chai, Burnt Sugar Almonds
Friday - Pot Pie Upcycle Style
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - leftovers

The obvious video choice for tonight's post. I'm sure you saw this coming. Forgive me.

GLEE - Time Warp

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pot Pie Upcycle Style

Yes, I did frame this picture of Turkey Pot Pie. If I had made a Beef Pot Pie I would have framed that too. It is that good. It deserves a place on my Wall of Fame.  

This is a most fantastic way to use up leftover meat and is equally good with chicken, turkey or beef. Simply change the bullion flavor from chicken to beef based on your meat choice. I used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Perfect.

I shan't waste another moment of your time. Below is the step-by-step pictorial of how it's done.

Pot Pie Upcycle Style


3/4 C white rice flour
1/2 C buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 C shortening (we love Earth Balance Natural Shortening)
5 TBS cold water

2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 red potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes
10 oz frozen peas
2 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp marjoram
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 C almond milk (we love Almond Breeze by Blue Diamond)
1 1/2 tsp chicken bullion or beef bullion
1 lb cooked meat, chopped - chicken, turkey, beef - really anything you have leftover that needs a place to go

The Preparation Method:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the white rice flour, buckwheat flour, salt and baking powder. Mix well.

Fold in the shortening until it is cut into pea sized pieces.

The easiest way to get the shortening completely folded into the flour is by working it with your hands. Massage the mixture until all the flour has been touched by the shortening. When ready, the mixture resembles sand on my favorite beach in Southern California.

Add one tablespoon of cold water at a time. Blend in with a fork, pushing the wet flour to the side as you go along.

Continue adding water one tablespoon at a time until you've added 4-5 total and the dough is completely moistened. It will still be crumbly.

Sprinkle some white rice flour on a large cutting board.

Form the dough into a ball with your hands. Place on the prepared surface.
Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to a 1/4 inch thick.

Place your casserole dish upside down on the flattened dough. Press down gently to make an impression of the dish.

Cut out around the mark and voila... now you have the perfect size top for your pot pie. Set aside.


Steam carrots and potatoes, covered, approximately 12 minutes, just until they begin to soften. You should be able to penetrate the veggies easily with a fork. Don't overcook them. They have more cooking to do in the oven.

When ready they will look all steamy and lucious. Remove from heat. Remove lid.

Add frozen peas. Mix the peas into the carrots and potatoes. Set aside uncovered.

Heat olive oil in a sauce pot over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, thyme, marjoram and pepper. Saute until soft and brown.

Remove from heat. Stir in the veggie mixture, chopped meat, almond milk and bullion. Mix well.

Place the pot pie filling in a deep casserole dish.

Gently place the crust on top. Cut slits in the top for steam to escape.

Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Then broil on the High setting for 3-5 minutes to brown the crust.

Let sit for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Find the printable recipe here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stellar Tuna Casserole

This household has been gluten and dairy free for nearly four years now. We haven't eaten a creamy casserole even one time since that dreary day when dairy was marked as a contributor to the problems for our then toddler son. 

We've tried alternative cheese sauces. We've tried blended tofu to mimic the creamy texture expected in a cream sauce. We've tried to pretend that cream simply doesn't matter so much in things like pot pies and casseroles. Each experiment was beyond disappointing, to say the least.

Despite my best efforts at recreating our old favorites, we often sat at the table begrudgingly finishing the food on the plate for fear of going to bed hungry. 

Not so anymore. Bring on the Stellar Tuna Casserole. I'd say it's about time! 

Stellar Tuna Casserole

16 oz rice pasta (we love Tinkyada brand)
1 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
fresh ground pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
1/2 C frozen peas
2 small cans of tuna
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3C almond milk
3 tsp chicken bullion (we love Better Than Bullion brand)
2 TBS cooking sherry
potato chips or sliced almonds

The Preparation Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring out a large pasta pot and start water to boil. You will also need a large frying pan and a medium sauce pot. Be prepared, you will have three burners going at once. I will outline the process in a few simple steps.

1. Combine sliced potatoes, almond milk and chicken bullion in medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a strong simmer for 12 -15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. When ready, take off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree mixture into a smooth sauce.

 2. Once the potato/milk mixture is underway, heat the olive oil in a skillet and begin sauteing the garlic, onion, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Saute until ingredients are soft and slightly browned, approximately 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat and mix in the peas. Let sit.

 3. When the water in the pasta pot has come to a rolling boil place the pasta in. Don't forget to generously salt the water. Cook pasta only until al dente. For Tinkyada this is approximately 10 - 11 minutes. Warning: Do NOT overcook the pasta. If you do, it will become one big mushy mash for your casserole.

 4. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Return to pot. Combine pasta, tuna and sauteed onion/mushroom mix.

 5. Add milk mixture and cooking sherry. Stir to combine.

 6. Place in large casserole dish. Top with crumbled potato chips or sliced almonds. Sprinkle with paprika. Place in the preheated oven on the center rack for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

I hope you enjoy this gluten and dairy free casserole as much as we do!

On the Eve of Thanksgiving, I realize many of us may be doing a whole lot of this over the next 24 hours.

Patty Griffin - Making Pies

Find the printable recipe here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Friday Night Round-Up: Week 26

Note to Self

 Dear Judith,

You have clearly fallen back into your old habits when it comes to weekly spending on the food budget. You were on a roll for a while. What happened?

Was it the allure of the discounted organic chocolate bars at the checkout stand?

Was it the need to double your intake of chai to four quarts per week because of the chilly weather?

Was it the seven different grocery store trips where you didn't come out with what you went in for and you bought things that weren't even on the list?

Just curious how this project has so quickly taken a turn down the path towards pocketbook agony.

Compassionately concerned,

Note in Response to 'Note to Self'

Dear Judith,

Indeed, I have fallen off the wagon. Or am I back on the wagon? I never know.

Either way, this week's food budget total is shameful. It's utterly disgraceful.

But it is not what you think. The bills from the grocery store were right on the mark. $150 total. The organic chocolate, chai spices and all the little extras didn't pose any trouble for the budget.

I'll tell you where the problem lies. The out-to-eats. For a family on a tight budget, out-to-eats are the devil. They can pin you down in a full nelson, unrelenting in their secret stealthiness to sabotage the wellbeing of the entire pocketbook.

On the flip-side, I'll tell you how this travesty came about.

My dear husband took the children away to his mother's for the weekend. He and they. They and he. A true Daddy's weekend. It was full of tailgating at the college football game, playing ball in the gym, movie watching and all kinds of goodness that comes along with a weekend full of Daddy and no Mommy.

It was a rich weekend for all. Mommy slept-in until 10:30am on Sunday, which honestly, I cannot recall the last time I did that. Possibly a decade ago. I woke at the usual time but decided to lay in bed in the quiet house and drift off to sleep again. I repeated this cycle at least three times until I realized the day was half gone. At which point I got out of bed to make myself a cup of chai and sit in quiet solitude for hours.

And while Mommy was doing all this, Daddy was having quality time with his offspring. Which, thankfully, happens much more frequently than once a decade.

The moral of the story is that due to the fact that I was charged with having a relaxing weekend full of rest and rejuvenation, I failed to pack the family a full flight of meals for their two days away. Hence, the out-to-eats. Next time I'll plan to put some things in the freezer ahead of time. Amen.

Restfully yours,

Beware: The following video is a little, ah, what shall we say... unusual. I've included it so you can hear one of my favorite songs of all time for sleeping-in and chilling-out. If the video is distracting, simply close your eyes and listen blissfully. The song is gorgeous!

Edie Brickell - Times Like This

Monday, November 22, 2010

Depression Era Pasta e Fagioli

This is quite possibly one of the recipes closest to my heart. It was my Grandmother's. God rest her soul.

She would always make this meal for my brother and I when we spent the night at her house.

Decades ago, when I was a wee girl, she taught me to make this in her little granny kitchen. She showed me the steps, one by one.

She made it very clear that there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to do this. Agreed. It must be done exactly as described here or it won't turn out right.

That said, I've heard my sweet husband say that this meal reminds him of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti O's.

Seriously? I don't think he meant to knock my favorite childhood meal. This statement is simply evidence that he did not grow up with a true Italian cook in the kitchen. He's not used to the refined taste of poor-man's pasta and beans soup.

I'll forgive him.

Besides, it is my kids' favorite thing to eat.

Please note that this Pasta e Fagioli soup will not taste like the soup you order at Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill or any other Italian eatery. This is Pasta Fajoli (as Grandma liked to spell it) from the kitchen of a little Italian grandmother who grew up during the Great Depression with 19 brothers and sisters.

Enough said.

2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz tomato sauce
1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed (or use Cannellini beans if you can't find Great Northern)
1 lb ditalini pasta (we use Tinkyada shells instead)
1 tsp basil, dried crushed
1 tsp oregano, dried crushed

The Preparation Method:

Photo Disclaimer: The lighting conditions in The Little White Kitchen were particularly bad on this fine Wednesday evening. Please consider these photos a work of Contemporary Art more than Fine Food Photography. Thank you.

Dice the onion.

Prep the garlic. To make this painstaking process surprisingly simple, here's a fantastic tip I learned from watching all the fancy chefs on the Food Network. Cut the end off the garlic clove. Place the clove on the prep surface, place your fat knife on top of it. Give it a good slap with the palm of your hand. Ta-da! The skin peels itself off. Why did it take me two decades to learn this trick?

Mince the garlic.

This piece is called, "Olive Oil in Blue and Green".

And this piece is called, "Why the heck is it so hard to take a photo of onions that doesn't turn out yellow and gross?"

Saute the onions, basil and oregano in the hot oil over medium heat for five minutes.

Add the garlic. Continue to saute for two minutes more.

Add tomato sauce. Simmer. Keep stirring.

Now is the time to get the pasta boiling. Tinkyada is hands-down the best gluten-free pasta we've found for our beloved Italian recipes.

Cook the pasta Al Dente. For Tinkyada pasta, this is about 10-12 minutes or so. For this recipe to turn out right, you MUST NOT cook it until it is soft. Drain the pasta when it is softened but still hard in the center. As all true Italian cooks do, salt your water generously, at least two tablespoons or more.

Back to the sauce. Keep stirring. Add water from the can to thin the sauce as you go along. A couple of tablespoons at a time. Do this at least twice throughout the 30 minutes of simmering.

Also, be sure to scrape the thick buildup of sauce back into the pan. As Grandma always said, "That's the good stuff."

Stir in the Great Northern (or Cannellini) beans. Keep stirring the sauce.

When the pasta is perfectly Al Dente, drain the water off the top. Don't drain it all. Leave enough water in the pot so that it is about 1/2 inch above the macaroni.

The sauce is ready after approximately 30 minutes of simmering. Pour it over the pasta directly into the pasta pot.

Scrape the thick sauce from the sides of the saucepan and add to the soup.

Stir it all together, bring to a low boil and cook at least five minutes to enhance the flavor. It is done when the pasta is cooked to your liking and the sauce thickens. Usually somewhere between five and ten minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

This is one of Grandma's favorite artists. She too liked to dance while she cooked. It's in the genes. Thanks Grandma for leaving us such a rich love of music and dancing and love of true Italian food.

Dean Martin - Volare

Find the printable recipe here.
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